What is nutrition?

Good Nutrition is the process of providing right amount of nutrients from healthy food in the right proportion. It is the bedrock for child survival, health and development and is also instrumental in eradicating many diseases, stunting , wasting, underweight and overweight in children under five years of age, anemia in women and children. It is not just about ending hunger but also about bringing positive change in society by ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives, promoting lifelong learning and economic growth. A well nourished child not only gets healthy body but also is better equipped to combat diseases and perform better in school, thus positively impacting, but productivity,

Lack of proper Nutrition leads to under nourishment also known as malnutrition and undernourished children are more susceptible to infection and diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and malaria. Undernourished children fail to perform well in school as compared to their peers who are well nourished and this in turn impedes in reducing poverty and improving socio-economic status of the country. Malnourishment is manifested in the form of stunting, wasting and underweight.

Stunted growth refers to low height-for-age, when a child is short for his/ her age but not necessarily thin, this carries long-term developmental risks.

Wasted refers to low weight-for-height where a child is thin for his/ her height but not necessarily short. It carries an immediate increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Wasted children have a 5-20 times higher risk of dying from common diseases like diarrhea or pneumonia than normally nourished children.

Underweight is a term describing a person whose body weight is considered too low to be healthy

Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that every child has the right to live and the government should ensure that children survive and grow up healthy. Article 24 states that children have the right to good quality health care, to safe drinking water, nutritious food, clean and safe environment and information to help them stay healthy. India being a signatory is committed to providing “adequate nutritious food” for children.

The National Family Health Survey- 3 which tracks the status of child Nutrition indicates that 46 percent of the children under 5 years of age are underweight, 38 percent stunted and approximately 19 percent are wasted. Evidence suggest that the gap in prevalence of underweight children among rich and poor households is increasing which shows disparity among them To combat the situation of malnutrition and curb the growing rate of under Nutrition in children Government of India launched many schemes like ICDS, NCF, National Health Mission, Mid Day Meal. With the objective of improving the nutritional status of children and encouraging attendance in primary and upper primary classes in schools, Government introduced Mid Day Meal Scheme in 1995 to provide daily meals to 12 crore school going children from class 1st to 8th in government and government-aided school.

Through Mid Day Meal Scheme the Government has directed to provide hot cooked meals or ready to eat food based on sound nutritional principles. It not only protects children from classroom hunger but also increases school enrolment and attendance. It addresses the issue of malnutrition which in turn would not only help in making children healthy, but also in socio-economic development of the country.